Stuart’s efforts help people with their own mountains to climb
Each week, we ask small businesses key questions. Here we speak to Stuart Dickson, owner of holiday accommodation firm Highland Hideouts in Aviemore
How and why did you start in business?
I developed a love of the great outdoors, especially mountainous regions, very early on.
This passion took me travelling and my mind was well and truly broadened. I saw how tough life can be for many ordinary people in developing countries and wanted to do something business-based to help.
The clear answer was to focus on selling “fair trade” products made by the sort of people I was trying to help.
So I have developed a series of Himalayan Summer exhibitions in Scotland to showcase and sell Nepalese products.
This became particularly important after their devastating earthquake in 2015.
I have also brought sherpas over here to sell their wares, and this has led to them forging friendships with Scots who then go to Nepal on holiday, further boosting the economy.
My passion for the Highlands led me to base my Himalayan business in Grantown.
This in turn led to me buying and developing properties in the Spey Valley and to establishing a new self-catering agency, Highland Hideouts, last September.
How did you get to where you are today?
Lots of hard work and perseverance, and the ability to think outside the box and be flexible, while always staying true to my beliefs and principles. I am very passionate about getting everything right.
The development has included sympathetically renovating everything from an old school house in Duthil to the Old Mill in Boat of Garten, a lodge on the Dulnain in Carrbridge, and a remote croft.
Our aim is to link the great indoors to the great outdoors in Cairngorm National Park.
Who helped you? Everyone needs
agreat start in life and I was very fortunate to be helped by the Prince’s Youth Business Trust, Glasgow University, my parents and friends.
In more recent years I have benefited from my membership of the Federation of Small Businesses.
What has been your biggest mistake?
Not accepting the first offer made on an earlier business. Overvaluing one’s own worth, possessions or business is always a danger.
Things are only worth what the market will pay.
What is your greatest achievement?
I have had lots of experiences that make me happy. There’s my fair trade business in Nepal, and the satisfaction I got from helping there after the earthquake.
I’m also involved in disabled and Paralympic skiing.
I love restoring derelict but stunning and charming old croft and mill buildings in a sustainable and sympathetic manner, and then seeing the delight on the faces of guests when they arrive to rent them. It’s a great business that really helps the fragile local economy.
If you were in government, what would you change?
I would reintroduce maintenance grants for students, and provide far greater and more accessible financial support for young entrepreneurs.
What do you still hope to achieve?
A family. I’m also looking at new methods of managing and using the land and wider environment to provide more sustainable local employment.
What do you do to relax? I love cross-country and alpine skiing, hiking, trekking and cycling, and indoors I’m an avid reader. The former are better in the company of family and friends.
What are you reading, listening to or glued to on TV?
I’m watching Modern Family, and reading all about Doug Scott and Dougal Haston’s climbing exploits.
“I love restoring derelict but stunning and charming old crofts and mills”
What do you waste your money on?
Others say too much kit. But you can never have too much kit.
How would your friends describe you?
What would your enemies say about you?
What do you drive and dream of driving?
I’m driving a 2004 Vauxhall white van after a minor accident. I dream of any vehicle with more than two seats that’s not white.
MAN OF THE HILLS: Stuart Dickson of Highland Hideouts at one of his renovated holiday lets in Boat of Garten.